Updated: When transfers are acceptable

12 01 2015

Back in May 2014, then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was dismissed by a verdict of the Constitutional Court. Her “crime” was to transfer one official, or as the New York Times stated it, “having impure motives when she transferred a bureaucrat three years ago.” Reasonable commentators referred to this verdict as biased, politicized and ridiculous.

Yet if the Constitutional Court declared her single act improper then, what should it say now about what the Bangkok Post says: is a set of transfers impacting “73 positions at the Metropolitan Police Bureau … and 130 positions at the Central Investigation Bureau…”? We ask because that Post says these transfers “involve many officers from the old power clique of the Yingluck administration.”

We know that the Constitutional Court will say nothing. Because this court is politically biased towards anti-democrats and royalists, it is more likely to cheer the police transfers.

Double standards define Thailand’s judiciary and there is no justice.

The new officers brought in are mostly close to General Prawit Wongsuwan and worked for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Part of the changes taking place also owe something to palace house-cleaning.

Update: Interestingly, the Bangkok Post reports that the puppet Constitutional Drafting Committee is to give the Constitutional Court the power that the royalists have long begged the king to provide under Article 7 of the last couple of constitutions. Rather than have the monarchy step in – and the royalists won’t trust it when the old man is dead – the Constitutional Court will step in to “solve” political crises. This seems to have been the king’s desire since 2006, and the royalist puppets are keen on engineering it.





Lese majeste at Al Jazeera

10 01 2015

We know we are late posting this link and that many readers will have already seen it.

The Stream is sometimes a bit difficult to keep up with when it interviews people on dodgy Skype connections and trying to link with reader tweets while presenting complex situations to a very general audience.

In the case of lese majeste in Thailand (not Qatar), the show interviewed lese majeste expert David Streckfuss, Saksith Saiyasombut of Siam Voices, ultra-royalist Tul Sitthisomwong and a “Thai citizen who supports lese majeste law,” Kuson Sintusingha.Kuson

PPT doesn’t believe we had never heard of Kuson previously, and compared with the other three, is the most interesting of the commentators simply because so many of his comments are indicative of a madness that affects so many of the anti-democrats. He’s a fully-enrolled member of this lot, as can be seen in his Facebook profile (right) which The Nation allowed him to use when providing “comments” on stories there.

The comments at that story at The Nation are indicative of his commentary on lese majeste. His claim is that lese majeste is most appropriately used against red shirts who are spreading lies about the king, probably at the behest of the hated Thaksin Shinawatra. His politics is clearly narrow and fascist, but he is not alone in these views in Thailand. The palace and military dictatorship know that monarchy fanatics are important political allies for they are easily mobilized and made aggressive and nasty vigilantes.

 





Rancid royalist politics

8 01 2015

In the recent past, when the elite has discussed its various constitutions, the sections dealing with the monarchy have been considered “controversial” in the sense that the notion of a constitutional monarchy is poorly developed in Thailand and the current reign has seen a determined effort to limit the constitutional constraints on the monarchy. If PPT’s collective memory is correct, the discussions of the sections dealing with the monarchy in the deliberation of the 1997 constitution were held in-camera.

When the military junta seized power in May 2014, it scrapped almost all of the 2007 constitution, with the significant exception of the sections on the monarchy.

As the military dictatorship considers its new constitution, the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee has so far said little about the monarchy. It has considered proposals about a number of changes to the political system, although the outcomes of these are anything but clear.

Yet, if a report at Khaosod is a good indication, rabid royalists are determined to have an even more powerful monarch, less constrained by the new constitution.

Retired commander of the Thai armed forces General Saiyud Kerdphol, long a buddy to the great political meddler and Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, “has urged drafters of the new constitution to allow … the King to intervene directly in politics…“.

The king has long intervened, and to give them their due, Khaosod points this out.

So this call is not for the standard intervention of the palace-monarchy conservative coalition, but for something more significant.

Saiyud wants the new constitution to define the “channels for the King to intervene” on the basis that he should “solve any political crisis in the country…”.

In fact, most political crises in the country, at least in the past few decades have been as a result of actions by the military, palace and royalists. Sure, there have been others, such as the red shirt risings of 2009 and 2010, but these have been responses to the interventions of these other groups of perennial meddlers. After all, it is the military, always with palace support or acquiescence, that conducted illegal coups in 1991, 2006 and 2014.

In the pickled world of old farts, political zombies, military jackasses and lumbering dinosaurs that Saiyud inhabits, his claim that he wants the king to be politically interventionist “in order to prevent further coups in Thailand” would make sense. However, no moderately sane person possessed of a few brain cells could possibly by this nonsense.old-farts-and-jackasses

According to this mad monarchist,

… the King should have the constitutional authority to exercise power “through the military, or the Statesman that he has appointed.” In Thailand, the honorary title of “Statesman” is currently held by Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the former unelected Prime Minister who is now serving as a top adviser to King Bhumibol.

There’s his elder military brother popping up in a role that Saiyud has promoted for Prem previously.

In Saiyud’s world, this “will help prevent more military coups in Thailand by allowing [the king] to solve political crises as soon they arise, thereby freeing the Thai military from ‘needing’ to intervene.”

The nonsense is that coups result when the palace wants to sort out its political problems and resolve its political fears. This would amount to a return to an absolute monarchy in all but name and would require that the king have control over all aspects of the coercive elements of the state.

Saiyud seems to not understand that monarchies went the way of the dodo because blood is not a trustworthy mechanism for choosing a political leader.





Coup and monarchy

1 01 2015

America’s NBC News chose the coup and its aftermath as one of the “stories, newsmakers, videos and images that defined 2014.” The story at NBC has several video reports attached to it. We summarize the story and add our own observations.

The story begins:

Seven months after seizing power, Thailand’s military rulers appear to be in no hurry to hand over political control. There is talk that elections won’t take place before 2016…. As they settle in for the long haul, Thailand’s gaffe-prone generals have been focused on their mission to “return happiness to the people.”

The generals, and especially The Dictator, seem happy, and so does perennial political meddler General Prem Tinsulanonda, who has cheered the coup from his palace position as head of the Privy Council. Even if the economy is in anti-democrat/coup-induced decline, the royalist Sino-Thai tycoons seem happy enough that the social order has been righted and steadied.

PrinceThe story continues to the events of the past six weeks or so that have demonstrated something else – that Prem and his lot have managed to make Thailand’s succession a “problem” in the sense that what should have been a simple death of a king and his son taking over has become a major political event. The story notes that the “marital (and extra-marital) adventures of the Crown Prince might well have been dismissed as nothing new if not for one thing: timing. Maneuvering for Thailand’s royal succession has been one of the key factors driving a decade of political conflict in the southeast Asian nation — and now it appears that succession may be imminent.”

Normal constitutional monarchies do not have to deal with such meddling and stupidity because normal constitutional monarchies generally operate within defined legal boundaries. Not in Thailand, so the story observes:

… as the year draws to a close, it is palace intrigue and not Thailand’s increasingly eccentric generals who are the talk of Bangkok — albeit in hushed or oblique tones because of draconian laws that limit open discussion of the monarchy…. Among a number of senior police officers arrested in late November for alleged corruption and defaming the monarchy were the uncle and three brothers of Princess Srirasmi…. Srirasmi — who was in line to be Queen of Thailand — was stripped of her royal title and promptly divorced by her husband, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The prince, with the son he took from the union with Srirasmi

The prince, with the son he took from the union with Srirasmi

Noting the successionist line, the report says that the prince’s mistresses have been one source of his unpopularity. The report goes on to talk of Sirindhorn as “popular” and alludes to her sexuality as well: “The prince’s younger sister — Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn — has emerged a far more popular figure among Palace elites, the army and in the country at large. Most Thais would prefer to see her take over from her father.” The report adds that:

That leaves the palace in a pickle — though none of this can be openly discussed in Thailand due to the kingdom’s draconian “lese majeste” law, which bans defamation, insults and threats to the monarchy, with penalties of up to 15 years in jail.

Meanwhile, for the prince, it seems that nothing much has changed.

He’s sent out pictures of himself with Prince Dipangkorn, the son he produced with Srirasmi, and reportedly took off to Germany following the split with her. Life seems to have gotten back to normal, despite another wife tossed out and a couple of dozen of her relatives and hangers-on jailed.

What the story doesn’t say is that there appears to have been a very large criminal network operating around the prince and, in the way of the corrupt Thai police and military, it was probably delivering payments right to the top. Of course, the current palace has managed to avoid allegations of corruption, deftly fending them off or allocating them to “evil” politicians or other sundry nasties, but never taking responsibility. Again, the lese majeste law has helped a lot, preventing any discussion of, for example, palace land grabs.Nothing happened

Sounding a bit like PPT, the story says: “Speculation is rife that Vajiralongkorn’s move to strip his now ex-wife (and her family) of their royal titles was an attempt to clean up shop — and perhaps part of a wider deal with the military to clear the path to the crown.”

Getting back to the coup, the story says:

One widely-assumed and unspoken reason behind the coup is believed to be the military’s desire to oversee a royal succession, and Vajiralongkorn’s rapprochement could be just what the army needs.

We think this is probably the deal to watch. As the NBC story says, “If a deal is done on their watch for the Crown Prince to take the thrown — on their terms — then the generals might feel vindicated.”

That’s true, but it also needs to be recalled that the generals are doing more than “managing” succession. They are re-establishing a political system that protects and nurtures the corrupt military-palace alliance.





The military-monarchy state is corrupt

21 12 2014

Yesterday we posted on the statements on corruption by the master of double standards, General Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council. In Thailand, there is always a double standard on corruption based on political alignment. Vast corruption is quite okay if the corrupt person is a royalist and/or a member of the system’s praetorian guard. Those attacked as corrupt are the ones who have fallen foul of a powerful royal or royalist boss or have somehow come to be seen as dangerous for the existing system of power.

Think of the vast corruption of General Sarit Thanarat, which had the implicit approval of the young, son-like figure of king and the old princes who were working for the political and economic rehabilitation of the monarchy. When Sarit died, his estate was estimated at about $140 million, a massive fortune at the time. As researcher Thak Chaloemtiarana points out in his famous book on Sarit, this wealth came from several sources:

Sarit's wealth

Clicking on the snips included here produces a larger version.

Nothing much changed for his successors. Generals Thanom Kittikachorn and Prapas Charusathianrana were briefly investigated after their fall in 1976 and were found to have been massively corrupt. One Bangkok Post report dated 15 October 1974 is reproduced below, and is a partial accounting of their wealth:

TPN Wealth

It is well-known that the king got on famously with Thanom and less well with Prapas. Even so, the palace supported these corrupt bastards almost to the bitter end because the state and the economic, political and social power that underpinned it was crucial for the monarchy during the Cold War period. It is no secret that the generals and palace grew wealthy together in this period.

One of the interesting aspects of the wealth of these military despots and many of their underlings, including some of those who replaced them, was their close links with Sino-Thai businesses, as shown in an incomplete accounting in the Bangkok Post from 1 November 1973.

DirectorshipsPPT is not just reproducing this data to show that the military was and is corrupt. In fact, following an email from a reader, we are reminded to indicate that the generals are both guardians and beneficiaries of a political and economic system that was corrupt in its genesis in the absolute monarchy’s conversion of personalized state wealth into capitalist enterprise, and which remains corrupt to the core.

As well as our reader reminding us of this basic point, we are motivated by a report at Prachatai stating that “12 civil society organisations” (CSOs) in the Northeast have condemned the junta’s suppression of freedom of expression, stating that national reform is only a pretence to enable the junta to maintain power for investors and the elite.” They deride the “reform” process as designed to “increase the power of the capitalists and the elite.”

As usual, the dependent Bangkok middle class is complicit in this fake reform, along with palace power brokers like Prem.

The CSOs call on the puppet “National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to stop passing bills as they are not the people’s representatives.” They demanded that “the junta to lift the interim charter and martial law, then organise local and national elections within three months and, in the meantime, impose the 1997 Constitution, which was dubbed the People’s Constitution’.”

As we are sure our reader would urge, perhaps there should be a move for a real people’s constitution.

Several of the group making this statement have previously denounced the military junta. The result was that some “were forced to report to the military at local military bases on 7 November. This included one activist who was captured by fully armed soldiers. Some were also forced to post statements on Facebook that they were treated well under detention.”

In the current statement “the group comprehensively denounced the legitimacy of the coup d’état and junta’s national reform agenda.” The group declared:

National reform and the process of constitution drafting under the imposition of martial law, which silences people from expressing ideas different from those of the junta, are unacceptable to the people; we believe that genuine reform must open space for people’s freedom to express opinions in a democratic environment….

Undoing the corruption that is at the core of the current regime – where the military junta is just the latest example – cannot be delivered by those who have suckled at its disreputable breast and now wallow in its trough of corrupt wealth and power.





The Dictator’s lies

19 10 2014

Some readers may recall that General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who we properly identify as The Dictator ignore the recent changes to his name’s spelling, which probably has to do with the advice of astrologers, once complained that he wasn’t running coups for the pittance he received in salary and daily allowances.

As our readers know, the salary and allowances are chump change for the military brass. They make millions from corrupt activities.

This time, when The Dictator whines about how “tough” things are for the corrupt bastards who run Thailand – administering the country seems to distract their attention from the big money in their businesses and scams – he is finding no happiness while “returning happiness to the Thai people…”.Prayuth gunning for democracy

At BloombergBusinessweek it is reported that Prayuth speaking to Thai officials at a free dinner in Milan, after flying first class and staying in a plush hotel, whined: “I have no happiness…”. Jeez, how sad is that! But The Dictator is so detached from reality that he blubbers: “But I have to stay for the return of happiness of the Thai people. So I have to suffer.”

His other claims are equally ludicrous: “Prayuth has said he had no choice other than to topple Thailand’s democratically elected government in a May 22 coup to end political protests and heal divisions that he said risked tearing the country apart.” No choice? Leaders always have choices and when they say there are none, they are either stupid or lying. Maybe he could have supported an election, provided security and brought pressure on the anti-democrats to participate in an election. After all, his lot were paying them and protecting them, so he clearly had influence. Need we go on? He’s lying.

Prayuth said “he never wanted to be prime minister and that he thinks of resigning every day.” He added: “I don’t want to stay longer than I expect for even one day,” complaining “that his wife often questions his decisions as premier,” claiming, “Every day I have to fight…”. Imagine being this dope’s wife: “When I get home, I have an argument with my wife.”

How sad. Lying again? Yes. He loves the power and feels he’ll be well rewarded for supporting the royalist ruling class. Why not? Every other general who has run the country since Sarit Thanarat has ended up wealthy.

His biggest lie is this: “What we have done is to prevent a military coup in the future…”. What? He means 23 May or the day after? If we took the longer term view, and Prayuth is babbling about his coup being the last, then we say he’s a dunce. Politicizing the military, accepting its massive corruption, resisting professionalization, taking commissions, promoting impunity and sucking up to the palace’s political meddlers is exactly what any reasonable person would not do. In other words, he’s lying.

His biggest claim one that he repeats regularly, that “he staged the nation’s 12th coup since the end of direct rule by kings in 1932 in order to promote democracy.” We are willing to cut him some slack here because we at PPT understand that Prayuth has no mental capacity for understanding such a complicated term. His life experience prepares him for hierarchy and dictatorship, not something as complicated as democracy.

Prayuth was truthful about one thing. He said the country can have another election but that “there must first be no disagreement in society” for that to happen. Refer to the previous paragraph in order to understand this.





A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed I

5 10 2014

Readers will probably be eager to digest the first review (that PPT has seen) of A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century. The review of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s book is by David Eimer at the South China Morning Post. A book cannot be understood by its cover or by its reviews, and had PPT has yet to receive a copy, we will do no more than point out some of the interesting bits of the review.

Kingdom in crisisThe first point to make is that this book will probably sell well and be widely read. Marshall has produced some explosive and well-researched material in recent years at Zen Journalist, and he has worked hard to promote it through his extensive use of social media. The publishers at Zed Books are also likely to be strongly promoting it.

The review begins by noting that Thailand’s recent politics has been chaotic and “has veered from one political crisis to another,” and the country is now in the hands of “a junta with the Orwellian-sounding name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).” Eimer asks: “How did a country once regarded as a model of stability and economic growth for the rest of Southeast Asia come to this?” Obviously, a book that tries to make sense of the political roller-coaster come to a political dead-end is welcome.

Eimer states that this “new book pins the blame partly on the one man in Thailand no one is supposed to associate with politics, or even talk about in public: King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” He explains that, “[f]or Marshall, though, Bhumibol is little more than a stooge of the military and business elite.” Marshall’s book is said to reveal” how pliant and essentially powerless Bhumibol has been throughout his reign,” and reliant on the military.

That statement alone would have it banned in Thailand, although it will already be banned under the royalist military dictatorship that considers Marshall toxic for monarchist Thailand.

Marshall is said to argue that “the king has been deliberately elevated to his exalted position so that the traditional ruling classes can maintain their hold on power while denying true democracy to their fellow Thais.”

Most controversially – “incendiary” is another word used by the reviewer – “Marshall believes the political turmoil of recent years is intimately connected to the question of who will succeed the 86-year-old ailing sovereign, who has spent much of the past five years in hospital. Bhumibol’s official heir is Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, more noted in Thailand and elsewhere for his playboy image than his regal status.” Marshall reckons they want the dumpy Princess Sirindhorn to succeed to the throne.

Eimer mentions the lese majeste law, but his claim that “[n]o one knows the power of the lese majeste laws more than Marshall” is overdone and surely one that Marshall would reject given his support for the anti-lese majeste cause and the plight of those imprisoned under the law and the death in custody of Ampol Tangnopakul.

The May 2014 coup has left “Thailand’s future is deeply uncertain…”. That may seem like an odd characterization given that the military is intent on creating certainty and managing succession. Yet the intervention has not altered the fault lines or the essential conflicts that rumble deeply and underpin all that the military does. According to the review, Marshall thinks nothing much will change “until the king passes away” today or perhaps in a decade.

Eimer criticizes Marshall’s lack of attention to “the growing grass-roots opposition to the establishment – Thaksin’s most lasting legacy may be politicising a formerly placid population in just a decade” but says this “is still a timely analysis of Thailand’s dysfunctional system of government.” He says it is also a “brave book,” for  throwing “a harsh light on the political role played by the royal family in a country where it has long been allowed immunity from criticism, and that is a unique achievement.”

PPT can’t wait to read it.








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